(Our friend Gorger from Norway brings us this 23rd installment in his ongoing series reviewing releases we’ve overlooked. To find more of his discoveries, type “Gorger” in our search bar or visit Gorger’s Metal.)
Here we go again with four albums you may or may not have overlooked. Read if you must, stream at will, and rant in the comment section.
KATHAROS – EXUVIAN HERALDRY
This symphonic black metal quartet comes from Stockholm, Sweden and has spent quite some time crafting their first piece. Time well spent, it seems. The band was formed in 2006 and released their first and only demo a decade ago. Exuvian Heraldry, their first album, was released independently in early December, but fortunately Sliptrick Records released it anew in March. Otherwise, Katharos would probably have sailed unnoticed under my radar as well, and sailed on quietly into the horizon.
The reason why I’m glad that’s not the case, is because the Swedes combine suppressed black anger with magical moods of symphony and stand-tall attitudes, presented in the form of seven mighty opuses divided fairly evenly over the course of almost an hour. The songs have an inherent mood of antagonistic grandeur. Like the megalomania of a hostile ruler with a grand army at his disposal, in an age where catapults and battering rams were the most powerful available weapons. The sound of the blowing horn used as a bugle warns of grave danger and imminent disastrous suffering when the ruthless emperor’s army mercilessly launches its bloody attacks, leaving everything with no economic or useful value, in ashes and ruins.
The songs have a wonderful mesmerizing drift with delightful rhythm and beautiful guitars. The music is admittedly far from innovative, and it must be said that the symphonic aspect is so synthetic that it borders on late-’90s nostalgia. Yet, the Swedes make this work. One of the reasons is that the synth largely emulates “Aaaa-choiring”, which don’t differ much from the real thing, especially when located behind a loud layer of aggressive black furore.
The music is not really very orchestral. It’s rather got a strong breath of powerful symphonic flair that contributes to a mood of cryptic orders shrouded in secrecy, but it doesn’t contain the instrumental elements of a proper symphonic orchestra, such as Septicflesh does. We’re basically talking pitched “monk-choir” with the occasional supplemented piano and harp, along with those unmistakable sounds of synthesizer. That’s still more than enough to amplify the music’s inherent epic touch.
The songs are very well composed. The dynamics of the material are vital and the span is large. We even come across sequences of the industrial kind when Katharos during the song Schaktet moves a step closer to Mysticum. The music’s chasing nature is lead by programmed drums, but as long as it’s not too distinct, I have no major objections. The variation from song to song is adequate, while a coherent “red thread” runs along the palace’s floors as a discreet red carpet that in a theatrical manner leads the way through a chronicle of centuries of epochal intrigues and deadly plots.
The combination of aggressive intensity, theatrical expression, and clever song-writing, gives a hypnotic effect that comes into its own thanks to solid instrumental efforts and adequate bombastic sound. With drama, fairly memorable tunes, and murderous punch, I doubt that fans of the genre will for a second experience boredom on Exuvian Heraldry.
Exuvian Heraldry was released by Sliptrick Records on March 1st.
PATRIA – MAGNA ADVERSIA
Patria play black metal with roots in the second wave, and sound as if they reside in Europe. Based on the antagonistic but also quite melodic black metal, I would perhaps have taken a shot (in the dark) at Germany as the hotbed if I were forced to make a guess. As you may know, the guys however hail from Brazil. The duo consists of instrumentalist Mantus and vocalist Triumphsword, who through a run of almost ten years now have come to album number six.
For some reason, I imagined this being album number four, but that just goes to show my lack of thorough knowledge of the band. Unless the reason is that their third album, Nihil Est Monastica (2013), was so flawed and feeble that it sounded like a debut. Additionally, the guys took a pretty solid step forward with the sequel to Nihil…, Individualism (2014), which in this sense could easily have passed for a sophomore album. The sound in particular was greatly improved, despite the fact that it was still reasonably cheap. But this is often the case with South America. The material wasn’t remarkable, but the album was certainly listenable.
With Magna Adversia, the sound is once again improved. You can of course accuse the album of being a bit too polished, or just gentle, but a rich and rather clean sound with clear bass suits the band’s fairly melodic expression, and notable dynamics also help improve the sound. Despite melodies, and a moderate epic approach with a touch of symphonic elements, the song material sadly didn’t seem very memorable this time around either.
In the eleventh hour, though, while the finishing touches on this review were put down, the whole situation was turned on its head. After the longest time, the pieces finally began falling into place, and I was forced to listen through the album a few more times whilst editing large parts of this text. The songs don’t necessarily lack the deepest hooks, but they ain’t easily accessible, and the music is struggling a bit to find solid foothold before an unimagined number of spins have passed by.
It should be said, however, that I still noticed that the material had more substance than the previous two albums, and that Magna Adversia occasionally felt very all right, even before the final “breakthrough”. Mantus is riffing better and more varied than before, and the drums are for the occasion entrusted in safe hands with experienced Norwegian drummer, and former Scream Magazine staff member, Asgeir Mickelson. The only single aspect I still struggle a bit with, is the vocal performance. I don’t quite get along with Triumphsword‘s hoarse grunting vocals. I feel that the music deserves more blistering force, for the instrumentation is highly competent.
The album has a moderate touch of orchestral tints and shades, created and facilitated by Rebaelliun‘s Fabiano Penna, while Borknagar‘s Øystein G. Brun was responsible for mixing and mastering. A dynamic range of DR7 is a notch better than what Winter Thrice achieved. Thus, Øystein has something to strive toward on the next occasion.
From being uncertain whether or not this was at all approvable, via a reticent recommendation, I finally conclude that Patria in this case deserve my unreserved recommendation. It’s been an unexpected long run, but the album never appeared as downright mediocre. Patria does a good job demonstrating a will and ability to improve. The songs initially have okay melodies that gradually and slowly grow to strong songs with great structures and variety. Those who like their black metal a bit gentle are thus definitely advised to hear Magna Adversia with their own ears.
Magna Adversia was released by Soulseller Records on March 3rd.
CEMETERY WINDS – UNHOLY ASCENSION
One of the first thoughts that strikes me when Finnish Cemetery Winds kick off Unholy Ascension with timeless but far from ragged death metal, is “youthful enthusiasm” along with a sense of thorough song-writing. The next thing that strikes me is how fresh it all sounds. I’m certain that readers of NCS come across teasers from a massive amount of new releases. Among that, to be honest, is a lot of similar-sounding death metal. Unholy Ascension still effortlessly stands out from the barbaric horde. Those who really took their time to soak in a Transcending Obscurity Sampler recommended by Islander, would already have heard at least one song from Unholy Ascension.
The Finns play deadly metal with a relatively good dosage of melody, as well as a whiff of the graveyard and shades of occultism. A scorched curse of disgust also rests over their first creation. Above delicious buzzing riffs, restless guitars hover around and mingle with a ghostly synth that’s barely perceivable as flickering shadows in the peripheral vision. The bellowing guttural vocals are blusteringly masculine and hateful, while the drumming is diabolically mean.
Unholy Ascensions is a riff-feast that may remind of classic Swedish death metal. Meanwhile, a foul necromantic spell rests over this aural substance. An ungodly mood of dark forces has taken residence in the release, and leaves such a mark on the profane melodies that it gives Cemetery Winds an inherent timbre of black/death. The sound is raw and resounding. The soundscape is rich and resonant, but also rounded and warm in a diabolically alluring fashion.
The fact that Unholy Ascension is a debut impresses. The fact that Cemetery Winds is a one-man band is incredible. Janne Lukka has admittedly lured other musicians into this nefarious spell. Janne handles bass and drums superbly. Juho Manninen (Curimus) plays bass, while Marko Ala-Kleme (Nashorn) and Kari Kankaanpää (Solothus, Sepulchral Curse) let their throats take a beating — Marko with black rasps while the pupils take cover in the back of his head, and Kari providing fiery growls with murderous fire in his eyes. Kick-ass album. Highly recommended.
Unholy Ascension was released by Temple of Darkness on February 10th.
WOLVES DEN – DEUS VULT
Wolves Den was briefly mentioned in conjunction with a Support Black Metal Compilation featured on NCS about three years ago, and by now it’s more than two years since the album was released. Quite some time later, the band hired a promoter to spread the word further. And after I received it, it got left in the dust behind the rat race of new releases.
The German band was established in 2013 or 2014, depending on the source, consisting among other of folks from Equilibrium. Deus Vult is the band’s debut, with a title that’s ironically referring to a Latin phrase used by Christians during the First Crusade. However barbaric the means and no matter how much injustice was done in the name of religion, one could always blame it on being “God’s will”. Any event was of course beyond any doubt caused by the “fact” that “God wills (so)”, or «Deus vult».
The band’s metal is black and ominous, but also melodic and at times rather epic and atmospheric. Not atmospheric as in a monotonous, soaring and above-average keen on woodland wilderness, but rather lightly vicious in the form of partly powerful moods. Moderate use of keyboards and backing vocals creates a somewhat symphonic appearance, without taking it to the pompous max. Their satanic mid-tempo glee, or should we I say schadenfreude, is not very cold and sadistic but rather performed with a quite pagan touch, just as the heroic aspect isn’t fully majestic. Nuances, nuances. Rather this, quite that. Their brutality is neither toothless nor throat-stabbingly sharp but the expression is chilly, biting, and proud, with asocial undertones of hostility. Not black as coal, but more fiery and reckless than what folk/Viking acts and more diluted post-black practitioners normally demonstrate.
The Germans present nine songs that sound good. The expression appeals to me, and the sound is adequate. The songs are not forged of very memorable riffs, but this ain’t an attempt at being entirely melodic either. The melody lines are still much better than a lot of what I come across. The album has a very good flow and I’ve certainly got a taste for it. Orthography-apostles, linguistic warriors, and other grammatical pedants will froth at the mouth as Munich’s wolves have omitted the mandatory apostrophe. Let them split all the hair they want.
Deus Vult was released Independently on April 3rd, 2015.